Hi Hayley,

I've never been athletic in my life, but I'd like to start running.  I can walk all day and I try to get in at least half an hour each day, but I'd like to step up my game. I have mild arthritis in my knees which has shown improvement since I started walking daily and lost weight, but it's not severe, so I don't think that should deter me.  Do you have any advice on running safely for a beginning runner in her 40s with creaky knees?


You need to start slow and since you have primarily been walking up until now I suggest that you start yourself with a walk/run program. Begin with a 10 minute power walk to get yourself warm and then spend a few minutes doing some gentle range of motion exercises, such as forwards and backwards leg swings and hip circles. Do some light stretches of your glutes, hamstrings and quads and then begin your walk/run program, which will be about 40 to 50 minutes.

Break the 40 or 50 minutes into 5 minute intervals, which will be repeated 8 - 10 times. Begin with 30 seconds of running and 4 and a half minutes of walking and each week work your way up, increasing the walking intervals by 30 seconds and decreasing the running intervals by 30 seconds. Continue this until you have reached 4 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. You should be getting out at least 3 days per week or the progressions will start to become too difficult.

Once you have reached 4 minutes of running with just 1 minute of walking you will then increase your running by 1 minute each week until you are at 10 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. After you have made it this far then take 1 or 2 of your weekly runs and change them into shorter runs, where you will run for 20 plus minutes.

You need to focus on your heart rate while you are doing this, as running is meant to be aerobic and if you allow your heart rate to get too high then you will be training in your anaerobic zone. Allowing one’s heart rate to get too high is the biggest mistake beginner runners make, and because of this, running is too hard and most give up. Slow and steady at the start is always best. You do not need to buy a heart rate monitor but you should be conscious of how you feel. During the running part of your intervals you should still be able to talk and connecting a few sentences together should not be too difficult. 

However, while you are walking you should be able to hold a conversation. Cross training is also a must, and you should be adding in one or two strength workouts a week plus another cardio workout (swimming, hiking or cycling). Cross training will help you become stronger as well as keep you from becoming injured. As you already deal with arthritis in your knees then this is extra important.
Do not set your expectations too high at the start and being with the goal of learning to run 20 minutes nonstop, which should take you about 3 or 4 months if you do it properly. Once that goal has been met you can start to up your expectations. Take it one step at a time but keep increasing your goals. 

Attached - Reese Witherspoon hiking with her children on the weekend.